Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama Wednesday made an impassioned plea to the Papua New Guinea Government: “Let my people go.”

“Two years ago I pleaded with you to let my people go. All Parliament is asked to do is give your blessing to a deal made 15 years ago,” Toroama said.

The ABG president said this yesterday morning before discussing the Bougainville Referendum on Independence, approved by 97 per cent of Bougainvilleans in 2019, and other matters during the Joint Supervisory Board (JSB), with Prime Minister James Marape.

Marape said: “Members on both sides must not fear this matter and as Melanesians and Christians, we must think rationally. Think from the side of PNG, as while we sympathise with the people of Bougainville, we have our national sovereignty to protect.”

The JSB, which was supposed to be held on Monday, was postponed to Wednesday with both sides blaming each other for the delay.

Toroama added: “Since the last JSB in July 2023, the issue on the table was the ratification of the referendum results as stated in the Bougainville peace agreement (BPA). This I understand is the last step to a deal we made with the Government of Papua New Guinea more than 15 years ago.”

Marape and Toroama as co-chair of the JSB, discussed ratification and post-referendum issues before agreeing to engage a moderator to support the two governments in:

*Resolving outstanding issues to bring the results of the 2019 referendum to Parliament;

*Preparing and providing insight into the preparation of the joint consultation report; and,

*Assisting the bipartisan committee in joint awareness to members of Parliament. Marape said that there was a need for “an elevated discussion on the next step to be taken on the Bougainville peace process at both the political and administrative level”.

“In last year’s meeting, we agreed that the mechanisms to bring the final results of the referendum for independence would be by way of a sessional order,” he said.

“Although we have under wrap an agreement, it is clear that our two governments do not agree on the working nature of the agenda at present.

“As PM, I am duty-bound by our Constitution that any decisions in respect to the Bougainville issues or any steps must adhere to 2/3 absolute majority rule prescribed under section 17 and applies to any amendment to our national constitution.”

He was referring to a constitutional amendment which requires the results to be put to Parliament, for all 118 members to cast a vote.

“The key issue facing us now is bringing the referendum results into Parliament,” Marape said.

The joint technical team (JTT) of both governments will develop the moderator’s mandate and terms of reference within a week of the signing of the JSB.

On the Bougainville Copper Limited, Marape and Toroama acknowledged the ongoing delay in the transfer of shares to the ABG due largely to considerations of cost implications of the stamp duty tax required for the transfers of shares.

The Government has committed to have the stamp duty tax of K1 million settled by Kumul Minerals Holdings Limited (KMHL), and that the BCL shares certificate be handed over to the ABG by the end of this month.